Thought Catalog
April 4, 2014

What It Really Means To Live With ADD/ADHD

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What is the issue?

I was recently diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Truthfully, I’d never considered that it could be the problem, though retrospectively, it seems painfully obvious. When I told my mom I thought I had ADD, all she said was, “I know.” How could I, such a proclaimed “self-aware” person, have been so clueless? I was victim to the stereotypes, and since I could hold a conversation without chasing after a squirrel, I’d never even considered it an explanation for my lifelong struggles. As I grew older and the consequences grew graver, I realized something had to give. I casually googled ADD/ADHD at work one afternoon, more so out of general curiosity than a true attempt to self-diagnose, and was blown away. Written there under the description was almost a perfect analysis of… me. An answer. An explanation. An end to the suffering I couldn’t identify. A beacon of hope, finally.

See, ADD/ADHD isn’t always the hyper child in class who can’t be controlled or the funny picture on the internet of the kid who — “Oh! Butterfly!” It’s not always the fidgety kid who can’t sit through silent reading time. Sometimes it’s the girl who does love to read, and can so hyper-focus on a book she reads for seven hours straight. So it lies there, undetected, its demons silently pulling every goal just out of reach. 

ADD/ADHD is receiving in the vicinity of 200-300 parking tickets in your life and not paying a single one of them on time. It’s locking your keys in your car more times than that, with zero exaggeration. It’s the 6 times in your life you’ve called a locksmith, the 2 times you’ve had strangers break in, the countless amounts of time someone with a spare has come to the rescue, until you manage to lose all the spares. It’s driving 20 miles to work and realizing when you get there you don’t have your computer. It’s doing that more than once in a three month period. It’s feeling like you’re living in a constant and barely contained state of chaos. 

It’s trying to go on any trip without forgetting something even though you’ve gone through a checklist in your mind. Actually, it’s trying to get from any Point A to Point B without leaving something behind. It’s running red lights and stopping at green lights because you’re not paying attention, not even realizing you’d completely zoned out. It’s not paying bills on time. It’s losing important documents. It’s missing deadlines and unfinished projects. Unbalanced budgets, bounced checks and over withdrawn checking accounts. It’s a pile of empty planners. One for every year you managed to remain unorganized. 

ADD/ADHD is 18 years of teachers, parents, peers wondering why someone with so much “potential” is failing school. It’s getting A’s on tests/participation and F’s in homework. It’s night after night of sitting for hours in front of the computer at home staring helplessly at the screen wanting nothing more than to do the assignment. The right answers, words, thoughts, ideas crammed inside begging to be let out… but nothing does. It’s not being able to answer when they ask why you don’t do your homework. Because you don’t know why you can’t. But, can’t sounds like won’t, and won’t sounds like lazy and how do you explain to someone that you really did have an amazing idea for that project you didn’t do? When you don’t turn in an essay, it doesn’t matter that you actually have a lot to say on the topic. ADD/ADHD is being voted “Biggest Procrastinator” in tenth grade wishing instead you were “Most Likely to Succeed.” It’s realizing there is a disconnect between who you are, and who everyone says you could be; desperate confusion because your ambitions don’t match your actions. And not knowing why.

Then, ten years later it becomes the horrifying moment when you mess up at work, because you didn’t read an email all the way through and missed a detail. It’s feeling like you’re failing at what should be such a straight-forward job but, it happens to require out of you everything that you find most difficult to execute. It’s being late everywhere you go, no matter how important the destination. But these aren’t funny, meme worthy moments of distraction by a flitting movement during a conversation. They’re the true consequences of suffering with something called Attention Deficit Disorder. The very name bespeaks the daily struggle.

ADD/ADHD is 23 years of silently screaming at people, “I don’t know why I can’t! Please… help me.” It’s thinking you will never be anything other than how others have defined you. Lazy. Forgetful. Spacey. Late. Interrupter. Rude. Undetermined. And laughing it off because every mess up is actually just a small, sick validation of these expectations. 

It’s honestly, and truthfully believing that your aspirations will never be anything more than dreams because how could someone who had to run back into her apartment three fucking times this morning and probably STILL forgot to feed her cat ever work for the United Nations? It’s thinking how could I ever get my masters, if I could barely pass a public high school honors class?

See, what really ADD/ADHD means is finally having an answer. It means maybe there’s hope after all, that I don’t have to be the person built around the aggregation of my symptoms. It means I can finally be the person I’ve always known I could be, there doesn’t have to be a disconnect. TC Mark